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My week with a 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid and a trunkful of Meat Church prime beef


Whoever first dreamed up weekends must have had barbecue on their minds. Ease on into it on Friday night, chillax all day Saturday to keep the train moving in the right direction, then spend all day Sunday tending a smoker stuffed with ribs and brisket, maybe a yardbird or two. If you take Friday off, that’s 72 hours of taking it low-and -low.

Know who doesn’t take it low-and-slow? Matt Pittman and his buddies at Toyota, which recently moved its North American HQ to Frisco. Pittman rides the competitive BBQ circuit on a horse named Meatchurch. Ribs, briskets, chicken,, rubs, injections, spritzes. Those kinds of things. Sometimes he makes a TV appearance to hawk his spice mixes and bbq secrets, but having met him this weekend at his place in Waxahahie, I’m convinced his cameos have as much to do with lingering shots of his long hair as his cooking (and both deserve praise).

To celebrate that summer has officially clocked in (and Toyota’s move to DFW) the car company sent me a 2017 Highlander hybrid to drive for a week, loaded the trunk with dry-aged steaks at Rudolph’s Market & Sausage Factory in Deep Ellum, then sent me to Pittman’s outdoor cooking kitchen to grill them. I drove the Highlander all over town and well beyond the loop.

To the airport to pick up missing luggage

.

To jury duty.

To the lake.

We headed out to the country for fresh peaches and blueberries, navigated tough parking spots on Greenville Avenue for a Slater’s 50/50 burger (and some damn good fried chicken), cruised to Nick & Sam’s for dinner one night, Knife another night, then Pappas Bros. Steakhouse at week’s end.

  

Pulling into Pappas Bros. that night, a carload of guys wearing Toyota-logoed polo shirts piled out of a new Camry then waited as I stepped out of my Highlander and retrieved something from its back hatch. You could probably birth a baby in less time than it takes for the Highlander’s electric rear door to open and close.

“Sweet ride,” one of the Toyota guys finally remarked.  “How do you like it?” asked another.

“It’s a loaner,” I told them.

“Mine too,” said one of the guys. “Don’t you love it?”

“Mostly. It seems a little sluggish accelerating on the highway, but maybe that’s because it was loaded down with meat. Did yours come with a trunk full of dry aged steaks, too?”

Maybe it was all that dry-aged meat. Maybe it was the blue-sky day, the delicious scent of fresh-picked peaches and blueberries . Or maybe it was the Highlander’s cushy leather interior, ice-cold air conditioning, or big navigation display that never steered me down the DART tracks like my own car does. It was probably all of those things (and a few more) that made me a little sad to part ways with the Toyota crossover hybrid. If Toyota would agree to keep it filled with beef and Matt Pittman would agree to grill them, I’d probably buy one. But for now, I’m more than happy to swap the Highlander for steaks from Samir Dhurandhar, James Johnson and John Tesar.

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